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Future Teachers Use Grant for Green Literacy

By Jim Giese

The Lakeland chapter of the Student Wisconsin Education Association (StWEA) was awarded a $1,000 NEA Community Learning Through America’s Schools [CLASS] grant this summer. The NEA Student Program chapter used the grant to bring environmental awareness to all who visit the Ellwood H. May Environmental Park, a 120-acre, city-owned park on the north side of Sheboygan.

Last summer, StWEA Co-Presidents Kelly Ochalek and Rob Pockat brainstormed various ideas for area programs that would benefit from receiving the grant money. “One of the things we considered is the literary benefit the program would have for the community,” said Pockat. “One goal of StWEA is to provide overall literacy for Sheboygan school-aged children, as well as resources for parents which help promote literacy in the home.”

The decision in writing the grant proposal was based on the knowledge that Maywood interacts with a significant population in the Sheboygan area community and schools. Maywood serves thousands of students annually through a variety of educational programs.

After months of preparation, the grant proposal was sent to NEA last summer. A letter of full grant funding was received last September.

Two objectives of the grant proposal included: “To foster a lasting relationship between Lakeland College and Maywood to form a partnership around the common goal of providing area schools and the community with the best opportunity to learn about the environment through hands-on activities; and, to provide the foundation for an environmental literacy corner within the visitor center.”

Since receiving the grant, StWEA has purchased approximately $450 worth of nature and environmental books of different skill and developmental levels that will be housed on a portable bookshelf built by Ochalek’s father. Pockat added, “With grant money, we began to fill the bookcase with books and materials with subjects related to environmental issues, focusing mainly on Wisconsin.”

StWEA member Dana Tennessen reads to children visiting the Maywood Literacy Center, established through a CLASS grant.

Photo courtesy of STWEA

Ochalek has also created Environmental Literacy brochures that will be available for parents at Maywood. “They are put together by age level and basically give parents some literacy tips about reading with and to children as well as some suggested book titles,” said Ochalek.

StWEA also has plans to provide “explorer” backpacks which would possibly include a magnifying glass, tree and animal identification guides, and other fun, useful items that families would be able to check out while visiting Maywood. “We are still nailing down the details,” added Pockat. “We want to enhance the experience for children and parents.”

Beyond the financial support the grant provides, StWEA members will be participating in monthly activities at Maywood. They will provide labor for the eventual reconstruction of the EcoAdventure low-ropes challenge course as well as story time for children visiting the center.

According to Ochalek, additional accolades have followed the NEA grant. “The project was actually nominated and won the Wisconsin State Reading Association outstanding literacy project for an organization. This is a major accomplishment as this award rarely goes to student organizations of any kind.”

StWEA Advisor and Professor of Education Eileen Hilke accepted the award for Lakeland at the state reading convention in February.

Although only in its second year, StWEA also was awarded a grant last year with the goal to promote literacy throughout Sheboygan County. “Last year we also received a grant through the NEA,” said Pockat. “We provided the Early Learning Center (in Sheboygan) with materials to promote early childhood literacy.”

Ochalek added, “As an organization which has only been up and running for two years now, we have accomplished some great things.”

CLASS GRANTS fund community outreach efforts. Application deadlines: First semester, August 31; Second semester, January 31.

Adapted from “StWEA is awarded $1,000 service grant,” published in the January 27, 2010, edition of The Lakeland Mirror, Copyright 2011. Reprinted with permission.

SOAR and Be Seen!

With the help of NEA’s 2010-2011 Student Organizing Assistance Resources (SOAR) grant, members of the Student Virginia Education Association at Virginia State University (VSU), a historically Black university, set out to encourage more students to get involved.

They used the grant to provide workshops, that they combined with their general meetings, to attract more education students interested in learning about how to prepare for life in the classroom. They soon found that students who attended the workshops were more likely to join the Student Viriginia Education Association.

The final project funded by the grant will be to identify a local feeder high school to develop a Future Educators Association and target graduates who enroll in VSU to become members of the VSU SVEA. The chapter plans to visit the school several times during the academic year to serve as mentors and to tutor students for the assessments required for admission to the Teacher Education program.

SOAR GRANTS. Intended to help chapters organize and recruit new members. Application deadlines: First semester, August 31; Second semester, January 31.

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